Saturday, April 16, 2005

Of resolutions & loopholes

Dave Armstrong has repeatedly refused to enter into a substantive discussion with me on the oft stated grounds that I'm an "anti-Catholic," and he made a "resolution" not to debate anti-Catholics.

Now, however, he is reminding everyone that he regards a mere resolution as nonbinding (see below). So where does that leave his original excuse?


As everyone knows, people break resolutions all the time: the most famous ones being those related to diets. I clearly broke some of my resolutions (because of my greatly mixed feelings on the issue, clearly expressed in both resolutions, and my "apologetic duty"), but in other instances I was merely liberally applying my "loopholes" (that I myself made), and there was no inconsistency.

Anyone can read my resolutions of 2001 and 2005, and see that they are not solemn oaths. They contain loopholes whereby I would continue to interact with anti-Catholics.

I "broke" with my resolution (as if it were an absolute thing, with no exceptions whatsoever, in the first place -- it never was).

I simply relaxed my own requirements for when I would interact. Am I not allowed to do that? I am forbidden from writing exception clauses in my own statements of resolution, and then prohibited from exercising and/or softening the requirement in any particular instance?


A house divided

Randy Gritter, who hobnobs at Armstong's blog, as well as having his own blog, has posted the following comment on my blog:

<< Catholics have their fights for sure. I could post so much protestant dirty laundry but I won't bother. The key question: "Is there any way to know for sure who is right?". Don't say the bible because everyone has a reasonable biblical basis for their belief.
The catholics at least have a history that ties them to Jesus. They have a consistent teaching that affirms not only the bible but the church as a covenant community for all generations. Should be obey better. Yes. Still catholics have to obey God. Protestants can always just reject a doctrine they don't like. The just redefine obedience to be whatever they like. Some theologian has always written some exegesis to give you biblical cover. >>

These are fair questions that merit straight answers.

1. Is the RCC consistent in its teaching? To quote something I said in my essay on "Back to Babylon-3,"
<< i) In the papal Bull "Unam Sanctam," Boniface VIII declared there to be only one true Church, outside of which there is to be found neither salvation nor the remission of sin, and he identified this Church with the Roman communion in particular since he went on to conclude, by way of consequence, that it is altogether necessary to one’s salvation to be in submission to the Pope. This position came to be codified at the councils of Florence and Lateran IV. Similarly, the Tridentine faith, as well as the oath of papal primacy (Vatican I) are both imposed on pain of damnation. Likewise, Pius IX, in his Syllabus of Errors (3:17; cf. 3:15-16,18), denies that a good hope is to be held out for the salvation of those who are not members of the true Church.
When, however, we turn to Vatican II (Lumen Gentium 16; Gaudium et spes 22; Nostra Aeta 3); or John-Paul II’s book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope; or Cardinal Ratzinger's book, God and the World, every allowance is made for the possible and actual salvation of an indefinite number of non-Catholics and even non-Christians. And, in this, the Pope and the Prefect are merely parroting the universalism of Rahner and Urs von Balthasar.
ii) In the Council of Trent, "Sacred Tradition" is equated with an oral tradition that traces directly back to the words of Christ and the Apostles (Decree on the canonical scriptures). For the Tridentine debate, cf. D. Wells, Revolution in Rome (IVP 1972).
That distinction is reaffirmed in Vatican I. Pius XII draws the same distinction in a major encyclical (Humani generis [21]).
But by the time we get to Vatican II, the two-source model does a diplomatic disappearing act as we watch Sacred Tradition morph into a fluid and dynamic principle that is identified with the progress of dogma — scarcely distinguishable from the magisterium itself (Dei Verbum 8-10). The same tactic is on display in Ratzinger's defense of the Assumption, which is a model of historical revisionism. Cf. Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 (Ignatius, 1998), 58-59.
iii) The traditional teaching of the magisterium repeatedly and emphatically affirms the plenary inspiration of Scripture—extending to its factual inerrancy—in opposition to Modernism. Cf. Vatican I; Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors; Leo XIII, Providentissimus Deus; Pius X, Lambentabili; Pascendi; Benedict XV, Spiritus Paraclitus; Pius XII, Humani generis.
But in a watershed encyclical (Divino afflante Spiritu), Pius XII made allowance for a form of genre criticism that opened the door a dehistorical reading of Biblical narrative, and by the time we arrive at Vatican II, only a version of partial inspiration is affirmed, limiting inerrancy to those truths that God has confided in Scripture "for the sake of our salvation (Dei Verbum 11)." Cf. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, H. Vorgrimler, ed. (Herder & Herder, 1969), 3:199-246.>>

Here we have three fundamental issues. Who is saved? What is tradition? Is Scripture inerrant? And here we see, not a logical development of dogma, but a complete reversal. At this reversal occurs at the magisterial level. Indeed, I've even given some examples from the extraordinary magisterium (ecumenical councils), which is supposed to be infallible and irreformable, right? Modern Catholicism is a house divided, and the cracks occur at the foundation, not just the upper stories.


i) Does everyone have a reasonable biblical basis for what they believe? I rather doubt that Randy is such a radical relativist as all that. The fact that everyone can appeal to Scripture does not imply that every argument is equally good.

ii) I'd add that this sort of objection, if it is indeed a problem for sola Scriptura, is at least as much of a problem for Sacred Tradition. What is the difference between exegeting Scripture, and exegeting the catechism, or Vatican II, or a papal encyclical?

iii) As to the general question of religious certainty, let us be careful that we don't fall into the trap of imposing an artificial standard on ourselves. We are not duty-bound to be equally certain about everything we believe. Our duty is not to certainty, but to God and to whatever he requires of us. God does not oblige us to be infallible. God holds us responsible for what we're supposed to believe, and he supplies evidence sufficient to oblige our belief, but he doesn't oblige us to be equally sure of every answer to every question. Duty and certainty are not the same thing.

I've offered a more detailed answer to this challenge in my 2-part essay on "Ten objections to sola scriptura."

3. Anyone can reject any doctrine he doesn't like. But there are grave consequences for flouting our duty to God. We cannot reject the judgment of God.

4. Do Catholics have a history that ties them to Jesus? This is such a compressed statement that it's hard to know what to make of it. Perhaps Randy has in mind something he posted on Armstrong's blog:
<< he [that's me!] gives a history [in my "Papal bull" post] of the first 1500 years of the church from an almost totally natural perspective. That is fine if you are an atheist. But he isn't. He believes in God. Still he believes that the entire church got corrupted and drifted deeper and deeper into corruption over the years. So why didn't the Holy Spirit do anything? He doesn't address this. What about individuals like Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Polycarp, etc. Were they all corrupt? Why didn't they speak out against this corruption? >>

i) First things first. There's an equivocation of terms here. It is grossly anachronistic, from a Protestant perspective, to classify Polycarp as a Roman Catholic in the same sense that Aquinas is a Roman Catholic, or to classify Aquinas as a Roman Catholic in the same sense that Rahner is a Roman Catholic.

From a Catholic viewpoint, Rome is this continuous stream, whereas the Protestant Reformation is a tributary. But from a Protestant perspective, Romanism and Protestantism share a common stream, and both fork off into tributaries at the Reformation, with Rome going in one direction at Trent, while the Protestant parties go off in a few other directions--Reformed, Lutheran, Anabaptist, Anglican. At the risk of oversimplification, the Catholics went with Augustine's doctrine of church and sacrament, while the Protestants went with his doctrine of sin and salvation. And just as there's been additional diversification within the Protestant movement since the Reformation, Vatican II marks yet another abrupt break with the past.

5. In terms of church history, Calvinism affirms a measure of continuity as well as discontinuity. This is based on the OT doctrine of the remnant, which carries over to the church (e.g., Mt 7:14; 22:14; 25:32; Rev 2:19).

There was a remnant in the Medieval church. I have no particular reason to deny that there is a remnant to be found in contemporary Catholicism--just as there was a remnant within apostate Israel. And the principle of the remnant applies to Protestant denominations as well, which comprise a mixed multitude of elect and reprobate.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The modern-day death cult

The case of Terri Schiavo is a convergent zone for many pressing issues in the culture wars. Although the details of her case are topical, they raise issues of a more general and generally germane nature.

One of the most reprehensible features of the public debate was the way in which those who lobbied for her demise disregarded a whole raft of major moral distinctions. This reflects a frivolous and callous outlook on life.

And that was additional to a careless or calculated oversimplification or even outright misrepresentation of the legal, political, and medical issues.

It was breathtaking to see how many moral and medical barriers were transgressed at one leap. We skipped straight from voluntary to involuntary euthanasia. Our judiciary put to death someone who was not suffering, not dying, not brain-dead, not terminal, not comatose, not on life-support, not guilty of a capital offense. Rather, our judiciary put to death an innocent woman who was mentally impaired, and was being fed through a feeding tube. It wasn't even clear that she needed to be fed through a feeding tube. She was, after all, able to swallow her own saliva.

In the following essay, I'll briefly discuss the Schiavo case in relation to the larger issue of mercy-killing. As far as the facts and merits of the case are concerned, I only know what I read and hear.

I. The Schiavo case

1. The merits of the case

i) Neurologists who examined Terri were divided over her medical status and prospects for rehabilitation.

ii) Nurses who tended to her care day in and day out testified that Terri was responsive.

iii) Michael Schiavo did not allow Terri to receive a PET scan.

iv) Judge Baird, of the Sixth Circuit, actually forbad the FL executive branch from conducting an independent review of Terri's medical status.

v) Although many courts reviewed the Schiavo case, they only ruled on the law, and not on the merits of the case. No new findings of fact were ever entered into the record.

2. The law

Let us remember, at the outset, that due process is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. What is the law for if not to defend the innocent?

According to FL law, Judge Greer was supposed to appoint a guardian ad litem for Terri. Instead, he assume that role himself, in a clear conflict of interest.

According to FL law, guardianship is not unconditional. A guardian is required by law to file an annual heath-care plan for the upcoming year. Michael Schiavo did not comply with that condition, and Judge Greer did not enforce it.

According to FL law, absent a living will, a death-wish must be attested by “clear and convincing evidence.” Instead, it as based on the hearsay evidence of one witness with a conflict of interest--Michael Schiavo.

There is also the question of whether a man who has taken a common law wife is still the husband of his first wife. Isn't bigamy a crime?

Michael Schiavo had at least an apparent conflict of interest on several grounds (the inheritance, a second wife).

When Michael Schiavo testified in the malpractice law suit, he argued for a financial settlement to cover her therapy and hospice care. But later, when he wanted her to die, he suddenly remembered her death-wish in the event of that very condition for which she was to receive therapy and hospice care.

The duly elected representatives of the FL legislature passed “Terri's Law,” to save her life. This was struck down by the FL Supreme Court on the grounds that executive and legislative branches lacked the authority to reverse a judicial ruling by changing the law. This is in direct contravention of popular sovereignty as well as the system of checks and balances. Are we a nation of laws, or a nation of lawyers?

When, on rare occasion, liberals appeal to states' rights, their appeal is limited to state courts, not the executive or legislative branches, or popular referenda and the like.

Jack Kevorkian is serving out a prison sentence for assisted suicide, yet Judge Greer mandated death by dehydration for Terri Schiavo.

According to the US Constitution, Article 3, section 1, Congress wields ultimate authority over the lower courts. Yet when Congress intervened on her behalf, the Federal courts openly defied an act of Congress.

One of the arguments we heard for euthanizing Terri is that her “right to die” was somehow implicit in her “right of privacy.” But, of course, the “right of privacy” is based on US Supreme Court rulings regarding abortion and contraception, which would make it a Federal case.

So the rule of law was systematically flouted in Terri's case.

II. Ethics & metaethics

1. Moral norms.

What are the sources of moral norms? One source is natural law. It is, for example, obvious that heterosexual bonding is natural and normal in a way that homosexual bonding is not.

There are, however, severe limits to natural law theory:

i) In ethics, we are often confronted by borderline cases which present conflicting moral intuitions as well as apparently contradictory moral obligations.

ii) It is possible to be a consistent moral relativist in a way that it is not possible to be a consistent alethic relativist. A great deal of moral reasoning involves reasoning from analogy. And this sort of reasoning assumes an area of common ground between one reasoner and another. For example, prolifers used to argue against abortion on the grounds that the abortion was morally equivalent to infanticide and euthanasia, such that if the latter were unacceptable, then so is the former.

But the more depraved and decadent a culture becomes, the harder it is to find common ground, to come up with a counterexample which is equally unacceptable on all sides. For the unbeliever may be quite willing to call the believer’s bluff, as it were. To a euthanasiast, the comparison between abortion and euthanasia begs the question. He would agree that they are morally equivalent, but conclude on that basis, that both are moral rather than immoral.

So moral intuitions don't have quite the same compelling force as logical intuitions. A moral relativist can, without fear of contradiction, simply deny your moral intuitions. He may be insincere about this, but you can't prove it.

For this reason, among others, we need the moral norms of Scripture to refine and reinforce our moral intuitions. Of course, the unbeliever will deny the authority of Scripture, but we can go beyond raw intuition in arguing for the authority of Scripture.

2. The presumption of life.

Those who oppose euthanasia and forms of murder (e.g., abortion, infanticide) label their position by certain slogans such as “the right to life” and the “sanctity of life.” These terms are of Catholic coinage, but because the prolife movement represents a coalition of the religious right, the terms have been coopted by Evangelicals as well.

There is some value to the “right to life” slogan, for, aside from euphony and brevity, it picks up on legal language from the Declaration of Independence and the 14th Amendment.

Nonetheless, this term, along with the “sanctity of life,” is somewhat misleading, for it has a rather absolutist flavor to it. In Scripture, the “right to life” or “sanctity of life” may be forfeited under special circumstances.

It would be more accurate to speak in terms of the presumption of life. In Scripture, there is a general presumption to preserve and spare life, all other things being equal. This presumption can be overcome under special circumstances, such as the commission of a capital offense. But the burden of proof is to justify the taking of life, not the saving of life.

In Scripture, the presumption of life, and well as special circumstances which supervene on that presumption, are both keyed to the imago Dei (Gen 9:4-5). Man is made in the image of God. And this is not tied to consciousness or a particular stage of life.

3. Omission/commission.

In the debate over euthanasia, it is common to distinguish between killing the patient and letting him die. Now, this practical distinction is not always morally distinct.

On the one hand, there are cases of justified homicide in Scripture. On the other hand, there are other cases in which letting someone die is murder. If, for example, you don't feed a newborn baby, that is murder. To let a baby die of neglect by depriving him of food and water, or other necessities, is murder.

To say, however, that the omission/commission distinction doesn't cover every exception or borderline case is not to say that it is a worthless distinction. Rather, it is a broad and basic moral distinction from which we work our way back. We begin with this distinction, and modify it by the addition certain caveats where necessary.

To put matters more precisely, the omission/commission distinction is a special case of the presumption of life principle. The onus is on the second party to save life rather than to take life unless special circumstances or higher duties supervene.

Certainly there is, in many cases, both a practical and principled distinction between taking the life of someone who is not dying, and extending the life of someone who is dying. As John Frame has put it, we may let the patient die when the patient is actually dying, and we lack the resources to prevent his demise.

There is also a difference between letting a patient die from causes directly related to his injury or disease, and causing him to die by depriving him food, water, oxygen, &c.

4. The meaning of life.

Is suffering a reason to end a life? Many people seem to think so. There are a couple of reasons for this:

i) Those who are not suffering may feel that they don't have the right to prolong the life of those who are suffering. This is part of a larger view of ethics, according to which I don't have the right to speak to an issue outside my personal experience.

ii) Another reason is that we in modern, affluent countries, have become soft and spoiled rotten. In most of human history, and in many parts of the world today, pain is a normal part of life. If you get sick, you stay sick, and you get sicker over time until you finally die.

Christians like Calvin, Baxter, and Christina Rossetti lived with painful and debilitating illnesses as a matter of course. That was an ordinary part of life in a fallen world.

Ironically, the same people who find the care of the disabled the most distasteful are the very people who would most benefit from having to care for the disabled. It would humble their proud and lofty elitism.

Another consequence of affluent modernity is that, on the one hand, we have smaller families (due to abortion and contraception), while, on the other hand, we can afford to contract out the care of the ailing and the elderly to second parties. For example, we warehouse many of our aging parents in nursing homes.

In the past, especially in Christian lands, this was simply unthinkable. It was taken for granted that family members were to care for one another--the young for the old and the old for the young, wives for husbands and husbands for wives. And where the family resources fell short, the church was expected to take up the slack (e.g., foundling hospitals).

You can see this in the Pastorals (1 Tim 5). Families are supposed to take care of their own. And if they can't, the church is supposed to render assistance.

Life was understood to be a life of service, not of self-service. But, of course, the abortion ethic is all about self-service. Motherhood and fatherhood are now treated as an onerous burden rather than a blessing from God.

This is not to say that life was defined by self-denial. For it was also understood that the true source of personal fulfillment came from serving the Lord.

5. The nature of man

Euthanasia defines human dignity and worth in terms of consciousness. The criterion of consciousness also means that those deemed, whether rightly or wrongly, to fall below the threshold of consciousness, can be treated with absolute impunity since they are now non-persons.

Indeed, far from taking a brain-dead or PVS patient off life-support, he is to be kept on life-support to harvest the organs.

i) What does consciousness mean, anyway? Am I conscious when I'm asleep? Is a dog conscious--conscious in the same sense that a man is conscious?

ii) A guiding assumption in the euthanasia debate is materialism--the identity of mental states with brain states. Thus, if the patient loses his higher cortical functions, he is said to lose his personhood and humanity.

a) Historically, Christian theology has held that the seat of personality is situated in the soul, not the brain. And, academic fads in Bible scholarship notwithstanding, I believe this to be Scriptural.

b) In addition, dualism can be defended on philosophical grounds as well.

You can only justify euthanasia by appeal to materialism if you justify materialism.

For further reading:

J. Cooper, Body, Soul, & Life Everlasting (Regent College 1995)

J. Foster, The Immaterial Self (Routledge 1991)

G. Habermas & J. Moreland, Beyond Death (Crossways Books 1998).

H. Lewis, The Elusive Mind (Allen & Unwin 1969)

6. The duty of government.

Many people said they were opposed to gov't intervention in the Schiavo case because it was a private, family matter. That raises raises a number of issues:

i) In this case, the family was divided. Her natural family wanted to keep her alive while her “husband” wanted her to die. So leaving it to the family to resolve the problem among themselves is no solution at all. In the case of a family dispute, who decides?

ii) The gov't was already involved. For the state and federal courts were calling the shots from start to finish.

iii) The police were also involved, in order to enforce court rulings. They were stationed at the door of her room to prevent anyone from giving her a drink. When Michael Schiavo banished her brother and sister from the room, the politice carried out his wishes.

iv) It may be natural knee-jerk reaction for many folks to say that gov't has no business sticking its nose in family affairs, but that is an exceedingly shallow reaction. We cannot allow some family members to do whatever they please to other family members.

Take the example of an ailing parent whose ne're-do-well son or daughter is impatient to inherit the estate. Should there be no laws in place to protect elderly parents from grown children who would hasten their demise to cash in on the estate?

v) Another object to gov't intervention is that an act of Congress violated the separation of powers. But that is wrong on several counts:

a) To begin with, it is Congress which is empowered, under Article 3, section 1 of the US Constitution, to establish all of the lower courts in the first place.

b) At a more fundamental level, this objection disregards the elementary distinction between human rights and civil rights. When, for example, the Declaration of Independence classifies life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable, God-given rights, the point is to treat these rights as human rights rather than civil rights. Human rights are conferred by God. That is what makes them inalienable. Civil rights are conferred by gov't. They can be regulated or repealed by gov't. An example of a civil right would be the right to vote or drive a car.

In our system of federalism, there is a division and distribution in the administration of civil rights. Some civil rights are the purview of the federal gov't, others of state and local gov't, while still others fall under both federal and state law.

But where a human right is concerned, federalism is inapplicable, for every level and branch of gov't has a duty to uphold human rights.

You have something analogous to this in the Mosaic law, where some laws applied across the board, where other laws only applied to Israelites in contrast to resident aliens--such as the duty to obseve the Passover.

c) And at the most basic level of all, the defense of innocent life is the primary duty of gov't. For example, the first revelation we have in Scripture regarding a theology of the state concerns the crime of homicide (Gen 9:5-6).

In Scripture, the state goes back to the family, while the family goes back to the creation mandates (Gen 1:28), which figures in the image of God (1:26-27). For procreation is the way in which the image of God is propagated.

The state is a natural extension of the family. Israel was a tribal society, governed by the chieftains and elders of the clan. Even the monarchy had a familial aspect, being dynastic. The head-of-state was to the nation as the head-of-household was to the family. Hence, execution was eventually transferred to the state, but underwritten by these presuppositions.

III. Euthanasia

1. The right to die

The death-cult speaks very freely about the right to die, as though this were self-evident. But here a number of distinctions need to be drawn.

i) Even if there were a moral right to die, that does not imply a legal right to die; and even if there were a legal right to die, that does not imply a Constitutional right to die. The Constitution is not the source of all moral and legal rights.

A large part of what gives liberalism its foothold is the idea that if I think something is right or wrong, then that should acquire the force of law.

ii) The so-called right to die becomes the right to be killed, which is quite a different thing.

a) It may mean that I have the right to compel a doctor to kill me. Now, even if I have a right to die, does that right compel a second party to kill me? What if that would violate his conscience?

b) In addition, it may mean the right of a second party to kill me without my consent as long as this is deemed, by a second party, to be in my best interests or the best interests of my family or society in general.

In Scripture, there is no moral imperative to die. On the other hand, there is no moral imperative to prolong by any means no matter what. We do believe in the afterlife.

2. The quality of life

Euthanasia is predicated on the quality of life. And this, in turn, leads to the quantification of life, for some enjoy a higher quality of life than others. The distinction isn't limited to disabled. It applies as well to the able-bodied. Human beings are rearranged along a sliding scale of value in the market place of euthanasia. And that, in turn, is the basis of eugenics: not between good and bad, but good, better, and best--however defined.

3. Voluntary/involuntary euthanasia.

i) Voluntary euthanasia hinges on the principle of individual autonomy. My life is my own, and I have the right to end it when I please.

This calls for a number of comments:

a) The principle of autonomy represents one strand of secular ethics. There is, though, another, rival strand of secular ethics in which the will of the individual is subordinated to the common good--however defined.

b) In theology, advocates of libertarian freewill would be predisposed to support voluntary euthanasia.

Hence, there is no value-free way of arguing for or against voluntary euthanasia. It all depends on your worldview and theological belief-system.

c) In Scripture itself, what we have is not personal autonomy, but personal responsibility. Scripture recognizes a principle of diminished responsibility in the case of those who have not reached the age of discretion.

Grown men and women have certain duties proper to maturity. Hence, the principle of personal autonomy is based on a half-truth. This is why, as a rule, slavery is wrong. For it treats adults as children, thereby denying to them their natural duties before God and man.

d) If we assume, for the sake of argument, that voluntary euthanasia is licit, then it follows, by the very same line of reasoning, that involuntary euthanasia is generally illicit. For if voluntary euthanasia is predicated on autonomy, then involuntary euthanasia is generally and directly at odds with the leading principle. For in cases of involuntary euthanasia, the decision is not made by the first party, but by the second party, with or without the consent of the first party.

There is, then, a fundamental conflict between the criteria for voluntary euthanasia and involuntary euthanasia.

e) An apparent exception of this is the living will, in which the patient expresses his wishes in advance.

f) Even this, though, is not a full-blown exception. For it doesn't allow the patient to change his mind. No one wants to go blind. No one wants to be an amputee. That doesn't mean that if you did go blind or become a quadriplegic, that you'd wish to die.

If you pose such a hypothetical to the young and able-bodied, the comparison is inherently invidious. And as long as the hypothetical remains just that--a hypothetical--then it doesn't cost the respondent anything to express his ideal preference. But that is a highly misleading barometer of how he would respond in a real-life situation, where his own fate was hanging in the balance.

4. Life-support.

Euthanasia is said to be justified if the patient is on life-support. But this is very vague.

i) There are cases in which a patient is put on temporary life-support.

ii) There are cases in which someone in a wheelchair may need oxygen or a ventilator. Diabetics need kidney-dialysis. Many of the disabled can carry out a fairly normal life with the aid of some technological assistance.

iii) There are degrees of medical intervention. A baby can't feed itself. It there much difference between breast-feeding or bottle-feeding a baby, and administering food and water through an I.V. or a feeding tube?

5. Terminal illness.

i) Euthanasia is said to be justified in the case of terminal illness. But this is very vague. A patient may be misdiagnosed. He may undergo spontaneous remission. He may libe for a year or two, and be fully or fairly functional for most of that time.

ii) There is sacrificial living, as well as sacrificial dying. To take of concrete example: Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great Welsh preacher, died of terminal cancer. But he voluntarily underwent painful experimental therapy to extend his life so that he could continue his writing ministry for as long as possible.

There's a sense in which we are all dying, for we are all aging, and we are all mortal. So there are degrees of dying, stages of moribundity.

The argument for euthanasia is that if a terminal patient is dying, then why not hasten his death. After all, he's going to die anyway, right?

Yet, even on its own grounds, the logic is hardly compelling. One could just as well reason that if he is going to die anyway, then why intervene at all? Why not let nature take its course? Since he doesn't need any help to die, why put him to death?

iii) This also raises the possibility of conflicting criteria. Is there a single criterion for mercy-killing--or multiple criteria? And if the latter, what happens in the case of conflicting criteria?

6. Suffering.

Euthanasia is said to be justified in case the patient is in acute pain. But this glosses over a number of issues.

i) It should be needless to note that there are degrees of pain and suffering. On a personal note, I know a little something about pain and suffering. I have fibromyalgia, and I'm a cancer survivor. I have better days, and worse days, but I never have good days. That, however, is no excuse to throw in the towel.

ii) It should also be unnecessary to point out that there are degrees of pain-management. You notice that those who lobby for euthanasia act as if we were living before the age of morphine and other painkillers. Never once in these debates have I have heard a medical doctor brought on who is a specialist in pain-management.

7. Mental impairment.

Euthanasia is said to be justified in various cases of mental impairment, viz., PVS, Down Syndrome, senile dementia, a comatose state, &c. By way of reply:

i) Mental function ranges along a continuum. There is a process of cognitive development from conception through childhood. In addition, some people are much smarter than others.

I'd add that, by and large, smart people are not as happy and not as nice as dumb people. So as far as eugenic criteria go, the world would be better off were we to euthanize everyone with an IQ above 120. If, on no other grounds, I'd choose a kid with Down Syndrome over Bobby Fischer every time.

ii) PVS (persistent vegetative state) is a rubbery term, and over the years the bioethics community has given it a more elastic and expansive definition to justify euthanasia.

iii) To say that we should kill the senile or vegetative or comatose because we’d never like to live that way if we were in their place commits an elementary fallacy of psychological projection. For assuming that these patients have no consciousness, they are not conscious of their lack of consciousness. So if it doesn't bother them, why does it bother us?

What is motivating such an attitude is not a concern for the welfare of the patient, but fear of mortality by the young, able-bodied subject who is indulging in this thought-experiment. The subject is afraid of death, and the specter of the nursing home reminds him of a personal prospect that he would rather not contemplate. That’s the real basis for the illusory identification, in which we justify euthanasia by projecting our own fear of aging and dying onto the patient. You see the patient lying in the hospice or the nursing home, and his very presence is a tacit nagging reminder: “You're next!”

This fear is a very natural fear. It strikes at the very core of our very being, as well as those we love. There is a reason why Scripture calls death the “king of terrors” and the “last enemy.”

The only way to overcome the fear of death, and--more importantly--the only way to overcome the curse of death, is through Christian faith.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The bang without the bullet

Back when I was a kid I used to own a cap gun. When I pulled the trigger, it would spark and smolder and make a lot of noise, but of course, it fired no bullets. Throughout this thread, Armstrong has been shooting back with a cap gun. There's been a lot of fire and smoke and loud banging noises, but no bullets, no arguments, no evidence. Instead, he's been breathing a pure laughing gas of undiluted evasion and invective. So there's nothing substantive for me to respond to.

"Anyone who took a single course in logic would have a very easy go of it, and could make mincemeat of his endless fallacious claims and non sequiturs."

Ah, yes, this is what he always says, but never does. What someone never does what he says he can do, what is this if not an empty bluff? Just a friendly word of advice to Armstrong: if you're going to bluff your opponent, don't play poker with your back to the mirror.

Remember Baghdad Bob, his head framed by American army tanks in the distance, defiantly insisting to the world that our troops had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Saddam's glorious military? Armstrong tells the reader over and over again that there's nothing to my arguments, yet he never shows the reader that this is so.

"There's nothing more I can possibly do."

Actually, Dave, there is. Defend your position by reason and evidence. Or maybe you can't. If you could, you would. End of story.

"I ask again: is there any Catholic out there who has the slightest question that my policy of not dialoguing with these people was the correct one?"

This is a fascinating admission. So the only audience he really cares about is his Catholic audience. That is quite a confession from a self-styled apologist and evangelist. By any accepted definition of the word, an apologist is someone who comes up with reasoned arguments for his position and against the opposing position. He comes up with positive arguments for the faith, fields objections to the faith, and raises objections to the opposing position.

But Armstrong has steadfastly refused to do the work of an apologist in his exchange with me. His ministry is for Catholics only. "Anti-Catholics" begone! Away with you! Unclean! Unclean!

There are "Evangelicals" who convert to Catholicism, or contemplate such a move, because they are taken in by the kind of gauzy, soft-focus, pastel-tinted, Brideshead Revisited version of Catholic nostalgia advertised by Armstrong and other starstruck converts to Rome.

It has been the aim of my exchange to show that this is a half-baked compromise and--where possible--push them off the fence. For if they are going into Catholicism for conservative reasons, then they are going in under false pretenses. The RCC has become the world's largest liberal denomination. There's a residual conservatism on a handful of token social issues, but don't let that obscure the degree to which Rome has made a hard left turn.

But don't take my word for it. Why, while Armstrong was ducking my objections at every available opportunity, he posted something on his blog from his fellow convert to Catholicism, Robert Sungenis, who, among other things, said the following:


How Mr. Likoudis can live with the unprecedented aberrations this pontificate has promoted without registering these complaints in public is mind-boggling. Here's just a partial list:

- A pontificate that prays with pagans and encourages pagans to pray to their false gods for mundane favors.

- that doesn't once preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them for the saving of their souls.

- that sanctions voodooism and other such abominable religions.

- that gives high-profile jobs to known pedophile protectors (Cardinal Law).

- that fails to rid the seminaries, chanceries and universities of homosexuals, and fails to deal with bishops who sanction and perpetuate homosexuality and homosexual priests.

- that fails to discipline heretical and immoral prelates, but pounces on others who seek to adhere to the Traditional Church.

- that teaches that the Jews have their own covenant with God, and need not convert to Christianity, and that the Old Covenant has not been revoked, in direct opposition to Scripture and Tradition.

- that strongly suggests by carefully chosen language that most, if not everyone, will be saved

- that signs joint statements with Protestants that have the Catholic side agreeing to the statement "justification is by faith alone" (Section 2C, Annex, JD)

- that allows the production of Catholic bibles (NAB) and commentaries (NJBC) that question or deny major tenets of the Catholic faith.

- that promotes the idea that Scripture has historical errors and that the Gospels are anti-semitic.

- that has consistently refused to consecrate Russia, by name, as Our Lady requested in 1929, and pretends that the consecration has already been performed and that the Fatima apparitions are passe.

- that has never completely released the Third Secret of Fatima, even though Our Lady commanded it to be released as far back as 1960.

- that promotes a Mass to conform to Protestant sensibilities, and gives lip service to the Traditional Mass.

- that has weakened the wording of certain sacraments.

- that says, in certain instances, the consecration formula is not necessary to confect the Eucharist.

- that allows women to act like priests and parade on holy altars, and hold positions of high authority in dioceses and universities.

- that teaches that husbands and wives are to be in "mutual submission."

- that promotes altar girls, even after it promised not to do so.

- that teaches our children that they descended from apes as if it were a fact of science.

- that makes life very hard for those who remain faithful to pre-Vatican II traditions.

- that teaches that the United Nations is the best hope of mankind (even though the UN promotes abortion, population control, contraception, euthanasia, and many other moral atrocities)

- that, instead of recognizing its own faults, makes profuse apologies for the actions of past popes and saints.

- whose policies of ecumenism are an unmitigated failure. (Recently the 22 nations of the European Union rejected the pope's request to add the phrase "Europe has traditional roots in Christianity" into its constitution, yet Europe has been the focus of this pontificate's "ecumenism" for the last 25 years).


Does this sound at all familiar to you? Have you ever read this sort of thing elsewhere? Has this pattern been repeated before? Of course! The RCC is going down the very same lockstep street to destruction as the other mainline denominations.

Oh, but there's a crucial difference. When other mainline denominations liberalize, the faithful leave and form a traditional, breakaway denomination. But, of course, you can't to that in Catholicism. That would be a big no-no. That would be schismatical.

Sungenis is a classic case of an "Evangelical" who converted to Rome for conservative reasons, only to make the unsettling discovery that he is to the right of the denomination he joined. He finds himself in the rather awkward position of trying to save the papacy from the Pope.

Now, this is not to say that absolutely anything goes in Rome. The Vatican has cracked down on some radicals and reactionaries. Yet this had less to do with their theology than with their challenge to the magisterium. As we've seen in the Episcopal church, bishops may not believe in Biblical authority, but they still believe in episcopal authority. Liberals in power protect their own prerogatives.

Again, there are degrees of liberalism. Liberalization is an incremental process--a stealthy, gradual, sneak attack. It doesn't happen overnight. There is a softening up process. JP2 wasn't a liberal in the same sense that Bultmann was a liberal.

Indeed, what you have in a guy like JP2 is a man with one foot firmly in modernity, and another foot firmly in the Middle Ages. He doesn't believe that Isaiah or Daniel foresaw the future, yet he does believe that the BVM foresaw the future at Fatima.

This is illogical, of course, but it's the sort of illogicality that is permissible within a rather provincial and ingrown religious community, such as the Polish Catholicism in which he was reared--or in various Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist communities.

And all this liberal drift and slippage is incipient in the veiled and diplomatic modernism of Vatican II. That's why there's no turning back the clock.

Understand, then, that if you are an Evangelical of sorts who supposes that Rome can conserve all you value in Evangelical theology, then appearances are deceiving.

Leave it to the experts!

<< I have responded quite strongly to a string of personal attacks which deny that I am a Christian and even a (true) Catholic; which caricature and seek to cynically re-define my very Church; by a person who is in the dark on a number of fronts having to do with his knowledge of Catholicism, yet one who thinks he knows more about a topic than a person like myself (or even folks like Scott Hahn and Karl Keating) who has devoted his life to living, defending, and understanding it… >>

This accusation merits a few comments:


I make no claims for myself, and my case does not depend on making claims for myself. Whether I'm competent or incompetent is up to the individual reader to judge. If I've made a cogent case against Catholicism, then I don't have to make claims for myself--and if my case is fallacious, then making claims for myself would not render it any less fallacious.


I have never said or insinuated that I know more about Catholicism than Armstrong or Hahn or Keating. And that is, again, beside the point. Let us suppose I know less about Catholicism than does Armstrong. So what? The question is whether what I know, as far as it goes, is accurate, and whether it is adequate to falsify the claims of Rome on her own terms. All I ever hear back from Armstrong are empty, angry denials.


Again, why is Armstrong referring me to the likes of Scott Hahn and Karl Keating? The fact is that if you want to learn about Catholicism, you should not begin with a popular lay apologist. Rather, you should begin with magisterial statements or statements by those in some sense authorized by the magisterium to speak for the magisterium, and not by these homegrown spokesmen.


Finally, and most importantly, to dismiss anyone from forming a value-judgment about Roman Catholicism due to a lack of expertise is a double-bladed sword, and the edge is far keener when it's turned against Catholicism itself.

To begin with, no one is really an expert on Catholicism as a whole because Catholicism is so diverse. There various degrees of expertise and areas of specialization, such as canon law, moral theology, Scotism, Thomism, liturgiology, patristics, church history, and so on and so forth.

But-and this is the most damaging point-Armstrong's elitist standard of judgment effectively disenfranchises hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics around the world. How many poor Catholics in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are “experts” on Catholicism? And if you have to be an expert to be justified in forming a belief about the true or falsity of the RCC, then I daresay that this criterion disqualifies the faith of most of the faithful around the globe.

Put another way, if I have to be an expert to be well-warranted in rendering a negative value-judgment on the claims of Rome, then--by parity of reasoning--I must also be an expert to be well-warranted in rendering a positive value-judgment on the same.

So where does that leave the Catholic masses in Latin America or the Third World? By this preemptive maneuver, Armstrong can only disqualify my disbelief in Catholicism by also disqualifying the belief in Catholicism as held by the great majority of Roman Catholics, past and present. Armstrong's attempt to vindicate his case by pulling rank (even though he holds no rank) is like a suicide bomber who can only kill off his opponent by detonating himself in the process.

Catholic sophistry

Armstrong's latest response to what I've written is an elaborate exercise in sophistry. For all I know, Armstrong may be completely sincere about this. He has clearly picked up a lot of scar tissue over the years, and like a bad divorce, he brings all this old baggage with him into the next encounter. Yet it is quite possible to be sincere and still work yourself into a primal crouch. And, to be perfectly frank, no one should go into apologetics unless he has a pretty thick hide to begin with.

In addition, it is a commonplace of moral theology that we are not always the best judges of our own motives. We do need, from time to time, to check our self-image against the impression others have of us.

The only reason that this has gotten so personal is that Armstrong has made it so personal by trying to make me the issue, or talk about himself, instead of addressing himself to the question of objective truth-claims and objective criteria. I've made abundantly clear, all along, that I only want to talk about Catholicism, not about Armstrong. That is only a fallback position when he forces me to fall back.


Armstrong makes a great deal of the fact that I never notified him of my little essay on “Helping old mother church across the street.” He even goes so far as to say that “Steve originated the attack upon my very essence as a Catholic (I had never heard of him before a few days ago, let alone read his stuff, so I couldn't have started this mess).”

Actually, that's not the case. He just doesn't remember. This all got started two or three years ago when a friend of mine (an Episcopal priest) emailed me Armstrong's “150 reasons” he's a Catholic essay-which was making the rounds of the Internet. I dashed off a reply, which I emailed to him, as well as a number of other friends. In addition, I cc'd a copy to Armstrong.

This was “first contact.” Armstrong never responded. Now, I don't blame him for not responding. And I don't blame him for not remembering. Given the volume of email he probably receives, I wouldn't expect him to respond.

But by that same token, if he chooses not to respond, then he doesn't wish to open up a dialogue with me. Fine. That's his prerogative. But in that event, I don't see that I'm under some standing obligation to notify him when he showed no inclination to interact with me when the occasion presented itself.

After I started blogging, I posted a revised and expanded edition of my reply. (“150 Leaky Buckets.”)


Ordinarily I wouldn't bother to comment on what a lay Catholic apologist has to say because the laity don't ordinarily speak for the RCC-unless a particular layman is a semi-official consultant to the magisterium, an individual whom the magisterium has delegated to speak in some capacity for the RCC.

I only did so in this instance at the best of a friend. And that was also the point of my “Helping old mother church across the street,” posting-to document the ironic and incongruous fact that, to a remarkable degree, the case for the magisterium is being made, not by the magisterium itself, but by self-appointed laymen.


I'd add that the whole issue of prior notification is a moot point, for Armstrong excuses himself from responding to the substantive issues by saying that he is now honor-bound not to respond given his resolution.

Presumably, the purpose of prior notification is to give your opponent the chance to respond to your substantive objections. But Armstrong says that he has recused himself from responding at a substantive level. So all the histrionics about prior notification, aside from being inaccurate, are at this stage of the non-debate, much ado about an empty gesture. Armstrong is waxing indignant because I didn't give in a further chance not to respond. “How dare you not give me a chance not to respond!”


Another stalling tactic is for him to allege a double standard in Reformed circles. To begin with, Dr. White et al are quite able to speak for themselves, so I don't presume to speak on their behalf. Certainly I'm under no obligation to do so.

Rather, what it looks like is that Armstrong is trying to settle some old scores with Dr. White by using this non-responsive response to me as the pretext for a backdoor swipe at Dr. White.

But more to the point, it's is a red-herring. For Armstrong has done nothing whatsoever to show that I personally operate with a double standard. And, at the risk of stating the obvious, the charge is inapplicable to Dr. White as well since he does debate Roman Catholics. I guess Armstrong is just offended because he didn't make the cut.

I would further add, however, that if there is a double-standard, it is a double-standard based on Catholic theology itself. For there is a fundamental asymmetry between the status of a lay Catholic apologist and the status of a Reformed apologist.

In terms of Catholic theology, the most responsible thing a Reformed apologist can do is to direct his comments to a member of the magisterium or someone designated by the magisterium to speak for the church. That is the best way of mounting a fair and accurate critique of Roman Catholicism. For the sake of argument, the Reformed apologist takes the teaching office of the church seriously.

5. Along the same lines, Armstrong tries to drag in what other “anti-Catholics” have posted on his blog in the comment box. Once again, he is free to address them directly, and they are free to address him directly-unless he kicks them off his blog. Indeed, he has issued certain veiled threats to that effect. I'm not going to put words in their mouth or get diverted onto yet another ground-shifting rabbit-trail about what they said about what he said about what they said about what he said, ad nauseum.


Yet another odd habit of his is to impute to me accusations I never made, and then take offense at the accusations he imputed to me in the first place-like a cat hissing and spitting at its own reflection in the mirror.

I have never said or implied that Armstrong is a “lightweight” or a “simpleton.”

In addition, I've never denied that Armstrong is a Christian. I haven't said that he is, and I haven't said that he isn't. I've observed a studied and silent neutrality on that question, and for a couple of reasons:


I don't pretend to know his state of grace, and, what is more:

(b) His state of grace is wholly irrelevant to the substantive claims of the RCC.

In response to a question of his, I did offer a carefully caveated distinction between a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith. But that seems to be lost on Armstrong.

Armstrong is the one who tries to personalize everything as a substitute for an honest debate over competing truth-claims and truth-conditions.

BTW, no one has to stipulate to my state of grace to debate with me.


Then there's the matter of his “resolution.” He uses this as his favorite escape hatch to evade a substantive discussion. But any reasonable person can see that this is a viciously circular appeal. He begins with a self-serving and self-imposed resolution. In addition, his resolution is predicated on a self-serving classification of his opponents. He has debarred himself from debating with “anti-Catholics.” And who is an “anti-Catholic”? Anyone he doesn't want to debate with, that's who!

This is like a boxer who issues a bold challenge to all comers, except that he's made a vow to himself never to box with any contender who might actually beat him in the ring.

Who does he think he's kidding with this transparent ploy? But if you're desperate enough, I guess you'll resort to any last-ditch escape maneuver, however obvious.


And he appeals to his resolution to justify a tendentious restriction on the scope of the debate. In a phony show of magnanimity, he is prepared to discuss anything with me as long as it isn't something he doesn't want to discuss with me-which just so happens to be all of the substantive issues in the conflict with Rome.

Again, is any reasonable person taken in by this non-choice? Like a used-car salesman, Armstrong gives me a choice: I can either buy the car with wheels, but no engine-or else buy the car with an engine, but no wheels! Thanks-but not thanks!


Then you have his set of trick questions. Armstrong has tilted the playing field to a 179-degree gradient, with himself conveniently perched atop the high ground at the 10-yard line, where he challenges me to score a touchdown.

The trick is to frame a question in totally generally terms. Then, if your opponent answers in the affirmative, you immediately apply the answer to your particular case.

But that is plainly fallacious. One could answer a general question in the affirmative without that answering the question in the affirmative in any individual instance. To infer from the general to the specific would require a separate argument altogether. What Armstrong has done is to skip directly from the major premise to the conclusion minus the minor premise.

Does he really think I've going to step into his trap? I guess he's hoping his trap is sufficiently camouflaged that no one will see it for what it is. But he's not going to play me for the chump.

10. Just consider his questions:

“Is there such a thing (a concept, prior to that) as a position which doesn't deserve the dignity of a reply, or one that can be described as intellectual suicide? This would be a point of view so internally incoherent and inconsistent that it is hardly worth talking about or interacting with?”

“Is there such a thing as a vain, or "stupid, senseless" conversation, to be avoided?”

“Is it possible to have 100 or 200 similarly exasperating, futile, frustrating, non-constructive experiences over 15 years, in attempted dialogue with proponents of a particular position?”

“Is it rational, ethical, and permissible to avoid situations and advocates of positions which lead to the futility and negative experiences and discord and acrimony and lack of constructive accomplishment, as detailed in #3?”

“Is it possible, therefore, to regard a position (in this case, anti-Catholicism, and the usual hostile emotions and conduct that accompany it) as having the negative attributes of #1, 2, 3; and therefore have a perfectly sound, sensible, reasonable justification for avoiding it, on these grounds, rather than on grounds of inability or fear?”

Now what is wrong with all these questions? They all suffer from the very same fallacy. For they all build a question-begging premise into the question. They all assume, in preemptory fashion, that the objections I have raised don't dignify a response, are stupid, senseless, and best avoided, futile and non-constructive, &c.

Now, if he were already in a position to know, by proving the point, that in the case of my objections, his premise was true, then he'd be justified in opting out of the debate. But he is assuming the conclusion to a debate that never took place, and then invoking that very conclusion to justify the absence of debate. It should be needless to say that this burden-shifting ruse is entirely without warrant.

It can be rational, ethical, and permissible, after you get into a debate, to decide that further discussion is futile.

BTW, I've never said that Armstrong is under any inherent moral or intellectual obligation to respond to me.

What, however, is irrational, unethical, and impermissible about Armstrong's stone-walling behavior is that I have already discharged my initial burden of proof by mounting a number of reasoned arguments based on his own putative authority sources, while he, for his part, is trying to have it both ways by rendering a preemptory judgment on the merits of my case without making any effort to engage the supporting arguments. So the onus is on him.

Now there are two rational, ethical, and permissible avenues open to him. He could simply reserve or suspend judgment on the grounds that he doesn't have the time or inclination to deal with me. He could say that he's in no position to render an informed judgment on the case I've made.

That, however, comes at a cost. For he has already drawn public attention to my arguments. To leave them hanging out there, unchallenged, is damaging to his cause.

Or, secondly, he could render a value-judgment after attempting to engage and rebut them. But what he is not morally or intellectually entitled to do is to reap the benefits of a summary judgment without having done the intellectual spadework to warrant a summary judgment in the first place.

For my part, Armstrong says that I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Well, maybe I should, maybe I shouldn't. That is, in the nature of the case, a judgment call, and I can only call 'em as I see 'em. And what I see is that Armstrong is spending an awful lot of time defending his position not to defend his position. And this invites the alternative explanation, which is, to my mind, the more plausible one, that he wouldn't spend so much time defending his position not to defend his position unless his position were indefensible

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Sexual Ethics

The Becker-Posner Blog: "I believe they can largely be explained in economic terms."

Yeah there's no soul in human beings to worry about with regard to sexual behavior. We're just grown up apes and amoebas.

Yeah right.

Campus Diversity, or lack thereof

Todd Zywicki has some facts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Waxworks religion

Although Armstrong refuses to talk to me, that doesn't stop him from talking about me. This, of itself, raises some nice ethical questions, but I'll let that pass.

It is, however, necessary to set the record straight since Armstrong is doing his best to deflect attention from the real issues.

Take the following two comments by Armstrong:

“What other people believe about Catholicism or anti-Catholicism doesn't change the fact of what I sincerely believe, and it doesn't give people the right to make stupid, unsubstantiated charges because they don't like my point of view on something.”

“If Hays wants some serious interaction and wants to expand his blog readership past its current 50 or so a day, I suggest he start exercising some rudimentary Christian charity and do research on that which he is opposing, so he doesn't make himself look so foolish: going on and on about things that he is clearly in the dark about. That's obviously not due to a lack of intelligence, but from a lack of willingness to learn and lack of charity towards others who believe differently than he does on some things.”

It is instructive to see how specific these accusations are at the ad hominem level while staying so very vague on the evidentiary level. Like any stalling tactic, this one has the advantage of keeping the factual questions at a safe distance

1. Once again, I'm happy to stipulate to anything bad he wants to say about me personally, for I am no doubt a worse person than the worst invective he has at his command-which, for a person who considers judgmentalism to be a sin, is on very intimate terms with the thing he condemns.

2. But, of course, the issue isn't about me. Armstrong is desperately attempting to change the subject by turning me into a decoy so that he can hopefully distract the reader from the real issue of truth-claims and truth-conditions.

3. I'd remind the reader that I have carefully documented my major claims. When he denied that Ray Brown was an authentic voice of modern Catholicism, I documented the fact that Brown was twice appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission by two different Popes.

When he gave as one reason for his adherence to Catholicism the acceptance of higher criticism in certain “Evangelical” circles, I documented the fact that the RCC has accepted higher criticism by citing such figures as Cardinal Koenig (a key player at Vatican II), Cardinal Ratzinger (Prefect for the Faith), and Joseph Fitzmyer, another member of the Biblical Commission.

I also noted that in their publications, Brown and Fitzmyer have both been vetted for doctrinal error by the official review process.

In addition, my series on “Back to Babylon,” which Armstrong dismissed without benefit of argument (what else is new?), contains extensive documentation from Catholic primary sources.

This creates a prima facie presumption that I have done my homework-to which kicking up a dust-cloud of personal abuse to cover his retreat is no answer.

4. Armstrong has a habit of quoting my conclusions while ignoring my supporting arguments. But the argumentation is there to back up the conclusions.

5. And let us be clear on something else. I don't claim to be an expert on Catholicism. I'm an outsider. And, what is more, so is Armstrong. Armstrong didn't grow up in the RCC. He was not educated at any Catholic institution of higher learning. And he holds no institutional position in the RCC. And this is an institution in which institutional standing matters.

6. Since I'm an outsider to Catholicism, the first question I ask is, who speaks for Catholicism? And since the RCC is a hierarchical institution, I look for answers in the hierarchy-in the magisterium and its delegates.

7. Now, it all due respect, is Armstrong really so conceited as to suppose that I should take his word over the word Brown or Rahner or Ratzinger or Fitzmyer or the others I cite?

Yes, given a choice, I take my cue from those whom the magisterium has chosen to speak for the church in various capacities.

8. And let us be equally clear on just what-all that amounts to. In this exercise, I am not judging the RCC by my own theological criteria. Rather, I'm judging her by her own chosen standard-bearers.

Who is Armstrong to tell me or anyone else that a guy like Ray Brown doesn't speak for Catholicism? Where is Armstrong in the pecking order?

Does Armstrong seriously think that I should be looking to him rather than these other men-men who have been promoted to strategic positions in the church? If Armstrong really believes this, then he is in quite a pickle.

9. That's the dilemma for a number of “Evangelical” converts to Catholicism, viz., Hahn, Armstrong. Some of them joined the RCC for conservative reasons. But they are more conservative than the church they joined. That is why Armstrong gets so testy and defensive when I start to quote from genuine insiders and heavyweight players. It exposes the schizophrenic insecurity of his position. He isn't quite an insider, and he isn't quite an outsider. Rather, he's like an expatriate who resigns his American citizenship, immigrates to France, and then disparages his homeland from abroad while, at the same time, correcting the accent of the natives.

Armstrong's trouble is that he was born a century too late. He has converted, not to a church, but to a museum-of which he is the self-anointed Curator. His quarrel is not so much with me, but with his own adopted communion, having arrived at the museum just after closing hours.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Leaky buckets redux

Dave Armstrong has offered the following reply, if you can call it that, to my rejoinder:

<< Here are Mr. Hays' two "replies": http://triablogue… http://triablogue…

[Note the insulting, childish nature of the URLs]

Needless to say, there is nowhere to go with this, as Hays is now revealed to be an anti-Catholic. Constructive discussion is never possible with them, and I don't try to do it anymore. It's a complete waste of time. Even a cursory reading of his replies quickly illustrates the futility. The illogical (not to mention, insulting) nature of most of it is astonishing.

Here are my comments on his blog:

Hi Steve,

Two questions:

1. Is this your entire "reply"?

2. Do you accept the Catholic Church as a fully Christian institution, so that one can be saved if one accepts all its teachings, as opposed to only being able to be saved (if indeed it is possible at all for a Catholic) despite its teachings?

In Him,



Oops, my mistake. I discovered your earlier response, upon scrolling down. A fan of yours on my blog had linked to the short reply, so I thought that was all there was at first.

Further reply could have been a good thing, but when one consults the ferociously illogical nature of your earlier post, one quickly realizes that this is not the case.

That same post (and another, "Papal Bull") clearly demonstrate [sic] that you are an anti-Catholic (one who denies that the Catholic Church is fully Christian). That being the case, our short-lived "dialogue" is over, as I no longer waste my time arguing with anti-Catholics.

Have a great day, and may God bless you abundantly,



Here is the proof on his blog that Steve Hays is an anti-Catholic (which I strongly suspected, given his rhetoric):

. . . In addition, it was only natural, under this arrangement, to funnel the grace of God through the sacraments-like a magic potion. Indeed, magic was another fixture of pagan priestcraft. Twas but a short step from a heathen cultus (e.g. Acts 14:13) to the sacrifice of the Mass. It is no great leap of logic to go from belief in magic spells and incantations to the belief, in Russell's words, that a man can change a piece of bread into the Body of Christ by speaking Latin to it.

What we have in Catholicism is a classic case of syncretism, whereby NT concepts and categories were assimilated to preexisting pagan concepts and categories. To some extent, this operates at a subliminal level. A convert associates the new and the unknown with the old and the well-known.

A textbook example is the "conversion" of Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24). Or just consider the seamless transition from patron gods to patron saints, as well as the continuum from Magna Mater to Mater Dei. Superstition is subconscious. When it becomes self-conscious, it ceases to be superstitious. Unfortunately, the Church of Rome has canonized superstition.

Alas, he, too, shows himself ignorant as to the relationship of development of doctrine and tradition (like so many anti-Catholic Protestants; e.g., William Webster and David T. King):


For example, Catholicism used to stake its claim in oral tradition (at Trent and Vatican I). But, over time, this became unsustainable. It was codified at Trent, but quietly abrogated at Vatican II, to be supplanted by the development of dogma, a la Newman.

("Papal bull") http://triablogue…

Hey, I know we all have a lot to learn, all the time. Mr. Hays is no exception. But the trouble comes when the person who is, in fact, ignorant, thinks he knows even more than the ones who might be able to teach him a few things about their belief system that he so misunderstands. That's classic anti-Catholicism. These guys know everything about Catholicism, and no Catholic can tell them anything. Mr. Hays feels himself qualified to caricature what I and others do in our apologetics, and make fun of our viewpoints on the Church (which are simply orthodox).

Strangely enough, the same dynamic is present in atheists, also. They often claim to be experts on the Bible, more than the Christians who devote their lives studying it. Human pride knows no boundaries of affiliation . . . >>

As the reader can see, Armstrong's reply, from start to finish, consists of ad hominem invective. One looks in vain for a single counterargument, a solitary piece of contrary evidence to contradict my many specific arguments, supported--as they are--by specific references to Catholic authorities.

Let us grant Armstrong's contention that I'm a complete ignoramus. If I'm laboring under the double handicap of incompetence (“ferociously illogical”) and incomprehension (“ignorant,” “so misunderstands”), then Armstrong should be able to wipe the floor with me in no time flat.

But to judge by this reply, whenever Armstrong gets into a dogfight he can't win, he pushes the little red button on his ejector seat labeled “anti-Catholic,” and parachutes out of his flaming, nose-diving plane.

This is exactly the same tactic that is used by liberals to smear conservatives and duck out of an honest debate over the issues. They resort to slur words like “homophobic,” “sexist,” “racist,” and the like.

Anyone can play this game. A Mormon would say that I'm anti-Mormon. A psychic would say that I'm anti-astrology. That's a great bullet-dodging device.

Armstrong has a highly idiosyncratic definition of interfaith dialogue. Unless the prospective dialogue partner stipulates in advance to the “fully Christian” identity of the RCC, then Armstrong will not deign to engage in dialogue. In other words, unless I already agree with everything he believes in, he will not talk to me.

I would just note in passing that this is yet another specimen of Armstrong's a la carte Catholicism, for that is assuredly not the prerequisite for Catholic ecumenism in the post-Vatican II era. And it is the abdication of apologetics.

There is no doubt that Mr. Armstrong could do much better than the likes of me. But I'm the one he chose to respond to.

He's says that I'm anti-Catholic. Well, what is Trent if not anti-Protestant?

Am I anti-Catholic? Depends on what you mean. I'm not hostile to Catholics. This isn't personal.

I am opposed to the Catholic belief-system, just as Armstrong is opposed to the Reformed belief-system.

Do I believe that the RCC is a fully Christian institution? Obviously not, otherwise I'd be Roman Catholic.

For the record, I believe the RCC to be an apostate church. The Council of Trent marks the irreformable repudiation of the gospel of grace, while Vatican II marks the official triumph of modernism. And let us remember that Rome returned the favor by formally anathematizing Protestant theology.

Armstrong asked me, before he decided that he didn't want to hear the answer, if I “accept the Catholic Church as a fully Christian institution, so that one can be saved if one accepts all its teachings, as opposed to only being able to be saved (if indeed it is possible at all for a Catholic) despite its teachings?”

I've already answered the first clause. As for the rest, that is not how I would pose the question.

To be a Christian is to be, among other things, a Christian believer. One must believe certain things, and not believe certain other, contrary things. On the one hand, some dogmas are damnable dogmas. On the other hand, the Bible lays out certain saving articles of faith.

This is God's criterion, not mine. I didn't invent it. By the same token, how God applies that criterion in any individual case is up to God, not to me. I'm not the judge, God is the Judge.

To take a concrete example, Scripture teaches sola fide (Romans; Galatians). I'm saved by faith in Christ. And I'm saved by the sole and sufficient merit of Christ.

But in Catholic dogma, one is saved by the merit of Christ plus the merit of the saints plus one's own congruent merit. And this results in a divided faith.

Now, in Reformed theology, we draw a distinction between a credible profession of faith and a saving profession of faith. For purposes of church membership, since we cannot know of a certainty who is or isn't saved, we only require a credible profession of faith.

A Catholic qua Catholic cannot offer a credible profession of faith. But whether a Catholic can offer a saving profession of faith is a different question. The answer varies on a case-by-case basis. It is easier to say who isn't saved than to say who is.

Because the stakes could not be higher, I don't wish to leave this at a purely abstract level. So let's take the case of Joseph Fitzmyer. Fitzmyer sits on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Fitzmyer has written a book entitled A Christological Catechism (Paulist Press 1991). This book has received the Imprimi Potest, Nihil Obstat, and Imprimatur. Here is a sample of Fitzmyer's Christology:

“Anyone reading the story today [Mk 9:14-29] recognizes the boy to have been epileptic…A demon is invoked to explain the cause of the sickness or disaster that people of that time could not otherwise explain or diagnose properly…Recall, too, how Jesus is said to 'rebuke' the fever of Simon's mother-in-law (Lk 4:39; cut cf. Mk 1:31; Mt 8:15), i.e., he is regarded as having rebuked the spirit protologically considered to be causing the high fever. Similarly, he 'rebukes' the winds and the waves (Mk 4:39 and par.), i.e. he is regarded as having rebuked the demon or spirit causing the squall. Undoubtedly Jesus shared some of the protological thinking himself, being a child of his time.

Having thus demythologized some of the fantasy and the protological thinking found in some of the miracles stories, we are left with a still more basic problem. For if, in reality, Jesus did not exercise a demon, but cured a mentally-ill person, was it less of a miracle?” ibid. 59-60.

This is not the place to rebut Fitzmyer's position. For that, a good place to start would be G. Twelftree, Jesus the Exorcist (Hendrickson 1993).

The immediate point is what this says about the faith of Fitzmyer, and what that, in turn, says about the state of the church for which he is a well-accredited spokesman. Fitzmyer doesn't feel bound to believe what Jesus believed.

This is the real face of modern Catholicism, the business end of Catholicism, of what is actually taught or sanctioned by the Magisterium, and not the Disneyfied version of a quaint old popularizer like Frank Sheed or a cafeteria Catholic like Armstrong.

Now, in my book, you can't be a Christian unless you believe in Christ, and you cannot believe in Christ unless you believe in what he taught. In my book, whatever else Fr. Fitzmyer may be, a Christian he is not--for he has parted ways with the teaching of Christ. And I would say the same for any like-minded person, whether Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian-or what have you.

For his part, I leave it to Armstrong to continue affirming the fully Christian character of an institution which openly and blatantly disaffirms the divine authority of Christ.

Because Catholic tradition is so diverse, it is possible to find the gospel in Catholicism. But the trick is to isolate the residual of truth from the negation of error.

One of the ironies of modern Catholicism is that you have Catholic laymen who study the Bible for themselves, and often have far more faith in the veracity of Scripture than their priest or bishop.

Incidentally, Armstrong is getting confused when he supposes that “Papal bull” is a reply to him. As was said at the outset of that essay, it is a response to the death of JP2.

Finally, Armstrong accuses me of pride. Now, when it comes to impugning my personal motives, Armstrong is on safer ground, for I am, indeed, a sinful man, and if Armstrong knew me better he could greatly extend the inventory of my moral failings.

But as far as pride is considered, the Church of Rome has erected an entire edifice upon the reeking foundation of spiritual pride. As the First Church of the Merit-Mongers, she has turned the sin of pride into a spiritual industry, and a very lucrative industry at that.

So the pressing question is whether we entrust ourselves to a belief-system that humbles our pride and gives all glory to the grace of God and the merit of Christ, or to a belief-system which divides the glory between a holy God and fallen man. Armstrong rightly says that human pride knows no bounds-of which the Church of Rome is Exhibit A.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Armstrong's cafeteria Catholicism

When I said that “whereas the real Roman Catholicism is represented by the likes of Rahner and Raymond Brown,” Dave Armstrong replied that
<< [Raymond Brown was not even an orthodox Catholic in many beliefs. Yet Mr. Hays wants to lift him up as an example of "real Catholicism," while in effect denigrating the above monumental figures]>>

But this was the position which Brown held in the Church:

“Brown, a Sulpician priest, was Auburn Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Union Theological Seminary, New York. He was twice appointed a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, by Pope Paul VI in 1972 and by Pope John Paul II in 1996. He wrote extensively on the Bible.”

So, yes, I happen to think that makes him a representative spokesman for the contemporary Catholic view of Scripture.

I happen to agree with Armstrong that Brown was unorthodox. And by Armstrong's own characterization, this means that the papacy twice appointed a known heretic to the Pontifical Biblical Commission. That says quite a lot about the official face of modern Catholicism. And it says quite a lot as well about Armstrong's own brand of cafeteria Catholicism.

The make-believe Bible

A short letter to the 3/26/03 issue of World Mag did a wonderful job of encapsulating a controversy over which entire books have been written:


As I was reading the TNIV verses, like "Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked," I felt, that's me! God includes me, and I can't wait to get a copy of the TNIV simply because, as a woman, I'm included. I'm not suggesting that the TNIV doesn't have its problems--every translation does--but why are we so quick to discard over half of the body of Christ and tell them to "just figure it out"?


Why indeed? Good question. What's the answer?

Think, for just a moment, of what she is saying. On the basis of the TNIV, she feels that God has included her. Not on the basis of the original Hebrew. Not on the basis of what the original actually said or intended to mean or referred to.

No. On the basis of something that is not in the original. On the basis of a translational gimmick, a linguistic sleight-of-hand.

Let's be clear on this. Utterly, brutally clear. Her confidence in whether she is included in the word of God is based on something that is not, in fact, in the word of God. Her confidence is based on a form of words that the translation committee simply invented up to make her feel included.

It is a purely verbal artifice, with nothing to back it up. It doesn't go back to the any promises that God actually made in Scripture. Rather, it originates with the translation committee. It has no life, no warrant, no subsistence beyond the translation committee, which conjured it into being to make her feel included.

So her assurance of salvation is founded on thin air. Literally. On merely man-made phonemes or vocables.


Dear Paul,

A good question which calls for several answers.

1. Although Andrew posted this trifle of mine, it was actually written by me (Steve Hays). Hence, Andrew may or may not agree with the exact way in which I chose to word everything I said. And he may or may not agree with my explanation. I leave that to him.

2. My main point was not to comment on whether the original Hebrew does or does not support this inclusive rendering. Rather, my main point is that this woman, and people like her, don’t even ask that question. They don’t care. They shop around for a translation that tells them what they want to hear. And if you were to tell them that the original Greek or Hebrew did not support a particular inclusive rendering, they would get very angry and impatient. They have a preconception of what God is like. They have a sense of entitlement. From their point of view, a unisex version is justified because that’s the way the world is supposed to be.

So my primary point is that you are posing a question which she didn’t bother to ask. This is the sort of question she should be asking. But she doesn’t ask it because she has already made up her mind what sort of answer she is prepared to hear.

And this reduces Christian faith to make-believe and wishful thinking. For we only know if we are included in the promises of God based on God’s revealed will.

3. Moving on to your own question. It is really up to the translators of the ESV to explain their own footnotes. I think that what I’m about to say is quite compatible with the footnote. But I’ll leave the interpretation of the footnote up to someone like Dr. Poythress.

4. As I understand it, the Hebrew word “ish” normally means a male member of the human race. In fact, one could argue that it always means a male human being. There are a few cases where it might approximate a generic male pronoun, when it is used more generally to designate a group which, by implication, would include women. Yet that is not what the word “means.” That is only an incidental, contextual generalization, where the implied referent might well include women.

BTW, there is a distinction between intent and implication. For example, the Mosaic Law talks about fencing the roof of a house as a safety precaution. By implication, this might be used to justify modern safety features as well. Yet that would not be intended by the original author (Moses), even though it may well be a legitimate inference or application.

Sometimes, too, “ish” is used in Hebrew parallelism, although that doesn’t mean that the two words are strictly synonymous, but only that they share enough of the same semantic domain that they can be paired off for literary purposes.

So the precise answer to your question is the bare meaning of the Hebrew usage does not, of itself, include women. The Hebrew is denoting a “man” in the gender-specific sense of the term, and that is the mental image intended by the usage.

5. Does this imply that women are thereby excluded? No.

Ps 1 is written with an ideal reader in mind. The Psalmist doesn’t assume that the reader comes to this text in a vacuum. What we take from any given verse of Scripture is largely determined by what we bring to it.

Since Ps 1 is anonymous, we can safely assume that it was written later than David. So the ideal reader would come Ps 1 with a knowledge of all the canonical books up to Ps 1.

Where the cut-off point comes is, of course, a bit speculative, but on any orthodox view of Scripture, it would certainly include the Pentateuch and other books leading up to the monarchy, as well as, perhaps, the early history of the monarchy. Something on the order of Gen-2 Sam.

And if a reader came to Ps 1 with this background, he or she would read it in light of certain extraneous, but pertinent information. As it bears on your question, there would be at least three salient considerations:

i) There is a principle of federal headship in the OT (as well as the NT), where individual men represent other men and women, viz., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. So a man can represent a woman.

ii) In the Torah, women had certain rights and responsibilities. Jewish women were morally obligated to be righteous—no less than men.

iii) Moreover, the historical books of Scripture give concrete examples of righteous women.

So the ideal reader would bring this background information to his reading of Ps 1. In that canonical contextual sense, women are included in Ps 1.

The ideal reader of Ps 1, to whom the Psalm was originally addressed, would bring this subliminal understanding to the text. It would ordinarily operate at a tacit, subconscious level.

What is more, Scripture was intended by God to be read, not only forwards, but backwards—not only in the context of promise, but the context of fulfillment. Christians who read the Psalms know how the story ends, as well as how it begins. We know how the Psalms find fulfillment under the New Covenant. And we know that women are included in the New Covenant as well.

6. I would add a distinction between sense and referent. For example, on the orthodox interpretation of Isa 7:14, the ultimate referent is the Virgin Mary and the Christchild. Yet no intelligent Christian would insist that Isa 7:14 should be rendered: “Behold, the Virgin Mary shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Jesus Christ.”

Such a “translation” would be a gross mistranslation of the original because this is not what the Hebrew says or means—even if that is the ultimate historical referent.

By the same token, it is wrong to try to build every implicit application back into the rendering. There are people in the church who demand that a mere translation should do all the work of a commentary or expository sermon. But the job of a translator is to render the text, not to import all of the historical background or future fulfillment into his rendering. So even if we accepted the egalitarian version of role-relations (which I don’t), that would not justify an egalitarian version of Scripture.

The truly inclusive Bible


As I was reading the TNIV verses, like "Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the wicked," I felt, that's me! God includes me, and I can't wait to get a copy of the TNIV simply because, as a woman, I'm included. I'm not suggesting that the TNIV doesn't have its problems--every translation does--but why are we so quick to discard over half of the body of Christ and tell them to "just figure it out"?


Unlike the letter-writer to World Mag (3/26/03), I found the TNIV to be a grave disappointment. Oh, it had a promising start. But when I got to Prov 31, with all its female pronouns, I suddenly felt, that's not me. God doesn't include me. I can't wait to throw away my new red-lettered, leather-bound, gilt-edged copy of the TNIV simply because, as a man, I'm not included. I'm not suggesting that the TNIV doesn't have its strong points--every translation does--but why is the TNIV so quick to discard over half of the body of Christ and tell them to "just figure it out"? Why can't the figure in Prov 31 be a househusband and stay at home dad? :-(


P.S. Before sending this, it occurred to me that perhaps I was being a tad unfair. So I kept on reading. But the situation only got worse, much worse. For when I got to the Gospels, do you know what I found out? A woman was still the mother of Christ! That's right. Can you believe it?

Now, you can't get any more sexist than that. Do you know how it makes me, as a man, feel to read that Jesus had a female mother? I mean, it is so not fair!

As long as the TNIV team feels free to make things up, why couldn't they give us a unisex virgin birth? Or would it be a unisexless virgin birth? Whatever. Point being: They could make Mary the mother of Jesus in Matthew, and make Joseph the mother of Mary in Luke. After all, every enlightened person now knows that a child can have two mommies, right?

Or, the TNIV could tweak the miracle a bit further by giving Joseph a uterus as well. That way, Mary and Joseph could work out a time-sharing arrangement for incubating the Christchild. He'd be in Mary's womb during the week, and Joseph's womb on weekends.

For the very first time in church history, men reading the Gospels would suddenly feel included, truly included, in Christmas!


P.P.S. On second thought, this still leaves too many folks feeling left about. For one thing, why does Jesus have to be a man, anyway? Just because he was a man doesn't mean he has to be a man in the Bible. Why can't the TNIV team make him a woman in the Gospels of Mark and John?


P.P.P.S. Upon reflection, this is way too heteronormative, cuz it leaves all our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Sophia out in the cold. At least in one gospel, the TNIV team needs to make the Messiah a homosexual man, and make him/her a lesbian in another gospel. That way, everyone would feel special.


P.P.P.P.S. I woke up tonight remembering that this still excluded all the transgender church-members. So, in at least one gospel, the TNIV team needs to make the Messiah a hermaphrodite. Or they could have him undergo a sex-change operation. Sorry, I mean a gender-reassignment procedure.

Now I'm beginning to worry if we have enough Gospels to juggle all of these sexual sensibilities. Is four enough? Maybe we could supplement with the Gospel of Thomas. Of course, that's named after a man, and has a male Jesus. But the TNIV team could make all the necessary adjustments.

Come to think of it, the canonical Gospels are also named after men. How offensive! Okay, then. Instead of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Thomas, what about Matilda, Marcia, Lucy, Joan, and Tina? And just to give the TNIV team a jump-start on the second printing, let's see how we can work out the distribution.

1. The Gospel According to Matilda

Joseph is impregnated by the Holy Spiritualist.

2. The Gospel According to Marcia

The Messiah is a liberated career woman, rising to the rank of Centurion in the Roman army.

3. The Gospel According to Lucy

The Messiah is a lesbian in a covenanted union with another lesbian, who left her husband and six kids.

4. The Gospel According to Joan

The Messiah starts out as a straight woman, but undergoes gender-reassignment surgery to become a straight man, after which he undergoes psychoanalysis, discovering that he's really a repressed homosexual. To be continued in The Gospel According to Tina (see below).

5. The Gospel According to Tina

The Messiah starts out as a homosexual man, but undergoes gender-reassignment surgery to become a holy hermaphrodite.


The battle of the sexes

Dear Dr. Blomberg,

In the Feb 26 issue of World Mag, you are quoted as saying the following:


Craig Blomberg, a Bible scholar Denver Seminary, tells of young people and new Christians asking "Why are the Proverbs written only to men?" because of all the language of "fathers," "sons," and that generic "he." Mr. Blomberg says, "It is still hard for them to get it out of their heads that the Bible isn't outdated or biased against women in ways that it never intended to be."


I honestly don't know what to make of this quote. For starters, the Book of Proverbs really was written to a male audience. The masculine viewpoint is pervasive. As Waltke points out in his definitive new commentary:


The book consistently evaluates women through a man's eyes and never a man through a woman's eyes. In his lectures the father addressed his son, never his daughter (1:8,10,15, passim), and in his extended discourses he warns him against an unfaithful wife (chs. 5 & 7) but never warns his daughter against an unfaithful husband. Woman wisdom addresses the men in the gate, not the women in the bazaar (8:4). The unfaithful wife and Woman Folly pitch the gullible male, but no equivalent male seduces the gullible girl. In his proverbs, Solomon continues to speak of the son (10:1; 19:27), not of the daughter; warns against the unfaithful woman (22:14); and commends marriage to a good wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:14) but not to a quarrelsome woman (19:13; 21:9,19; 25:24; 27:15). He never mentions a good or bad husband. The thirty sayings of the wise, Agur, and King Lemuel's mother also address the son (23:15; 30:1; 31:1) but not the daughter. The book closes with a portrait of an ideal wife without once mentioning an ideal husband for a woman.

Instead of mentioning his daughter, the father singles out his son because the male offspring is expected to assume the leadership in defining the family's identity and values (4:3-4; cf. Num 30). He also singles out the son to learn his catechism and not to stray because by nature the son is the more adventuresome of the sexes, tending to press beyond existing boundaries and to stray from the inherited tradition. By contrast, the daughter by nature tends to nurture the home and community at its very heart.

_The Book of Proverbs 1-15_ (Eerdmans 2004), 116-17.


1. Now, as Waltke goes on to mention, Proverbs also contains a lot of generic wisdom which is not gender-specific.

But that doesn't change the fact that, first of all, it was originally addressed to a male audience--to Jewish teenage boys. And, secondly, not only was it directed to them, but for them and about them.

Shouldn't we begin by telling young people and young coverts the truth? Do we begin with how they will react, or do we begin with the facts?

Surely one purpose of Bible scholarship is not merely to bring the Bible into our own century, but to bring us back to Bible times. What's the point of young folks going to seminary if they're preconceptions are never challenged?

Don't what a lot of young people need to get out of their heads the conceited, provincial, egotistical notion that the Bible was directly written to them, taking their cultural assumptions for granted and rubber-stamping popular prejudice? Does the problem lie with the bias of the Bible writer, or with the bias of the Bible reader?

It seems to me the very first thing a Christian convert needs to learn, to be a genuine convert, much less a life-long disciple, is to make some adjustment to the Bible, and not vice versa.

Maybe, just maybe, coming to Christ means leaving certain things behind, making choices, having to change one's mind on many things, change one's priorities, and make a corresponding behavioral change, having to submit to a higher wisdom and a higher authority than one's social circle.

Oh, and by the way, this isn't just a lesson for the young. It's no less a lesson for the old. The standard is the same whether you're 15, 50, or 90. The younger generation is taking its cue from the older generation. But don't Christian conversion and the walk of faith entail a moral, spiritual, and intellectual revolution?

2. Or would you say that the viewpoint of Proverbs is purely culture-bound? Well, as Samuel Johnson said, nature and passion never change.

A woman needs to know that Proverbs was written by, to, for the male members of the human race because a woman needs to know what makes a normal man tick, and she also needs to know the temptations to which human males are especially prone, viz., easy money, easy sex, violence, dare-devil stunts.

There is a natural tendency for each sex to take its own gender as the point of reference because that is what we know best. Hence, men--left to their own devices--are apt to reason with women as though they were men, while women--left to their own devices--are apt to reason with men as though they were women.

This ignorance of the other sex, combined with an unwillingness to adapt to sexual differences, is the source of friction between the sexes.

3. In addition, despite all of the coercive, heavy-handed, paternalistic efforts to impose a unisex ethic on the general culture by the state, the media, and academia, men still go into competitive, gadget-oriented, action-oriented or cerebral fields in disproportionate numbers while women still go into people-oriented fields in disproportionate numbers. You can you nothing to change human nature; you can only direct it or misdirect.

4. A propos (3), despite all of the feminist rhetoric and brainwashing about women's lib, godless women are not more emancipated than godly women.

To the contrary, if you look at the way ungodly girls and godless grown women behave today, they are more boy-crazy and man-centered than ever before. They do anything to please and impress the guy. If acting mock-macho--smoking, drinking, swaggering and swearing like a drill sergeant is the ticket to his heart, that's what they'll go for. But if dressing up like a streetwalker and undergoing plastic surgery is the ticket to his heart, then that's what they'll go for.

A lot of them are both mannish and sluttish at the same time. This is the MTV finishing school of manners. The co-ed military is a perfect, and perfectly dreadful, example of how the more things change the more they stay the same. Aircraft carriers become floating brothels--literally! I've ready about this.

Girls will literally starve themselves to look like a sexy fashion-model--although men prefer curves to straight lines. Contrariwise, have you ever known an anorexic man?

So the man is still the mover and shaker. They take their cue from the boyfriend. He's the spark plug who makes things happen. They are the followers. Sin is a travesty of godly submission. Sin is slavery.

In the meantime, the boys are the way boys have always been--and bad boys are the way bad boys have always been. Girls are boy-crazy in a way that boys are not girl-crazy. They have a girlfriend, but they also have a life outside the girlfriend--a job, a sport, the bar, &c. Girls go see boy bands, where they scream and faint. The reverse does not occur. In fact, I read a review of a Britney Spears concert, written by a woman, in which all of the concertgoers were young girls along with their mothers. The young girls were prancing around just like Britney, emulating her every lascivious dance-step.

For several years I used to take my mother to a beauty school. After she moved, I took her to another beauty school. In both cases, 99 out of 100 students were girls. Every girl had her own station. Every station was a shrine the boyfriend, plastered with his photos.

Now, I've been in enough locker rooms to notice that a lot of guys also have pictures of women on display. However, the females on view don't look much like the average schoolgirl--unless things have changed a whole lot since my high schools days. Rather, they present a decidedly more--how shall I say?--professional aspect.

Indeed, it's proverbial (pardon the pun) that certain girls are drawn, moth-like, to meteoric losers--to risky, frisky bad boys. I used to see this doing jail ministry. As I came and went from the jail, you'd see these ditzy, addlebrained girls outside flashing to their incarcerated boyfriends four floors above.

If boys are crooked, girls will contort to conform; if boys are on the straight-and-narrow, girls will walk a straight line.

That's why Proverbs takes the teenage boy as its target audience. The teenage boy is the linchpin. If he grows up into a God-fearing man, everything else falls into place, like marching in file. But if he grows up crooked, everything else goes a kilter.

Men need women to be women, and women need men to be men. We need each other, not for what we are, but for what we are not. There are some great men and women in the Bible, as well as some great men and women in church history. Let men learn to be better men, and women to be better women.